Bennet Joins Republicans, Helps Advance Key Bill For Obama’s Trade Deal

Photo: Michael Bennet, Barack Obama
President Barack Obama and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., in November 2013.

Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet joined with his Republican colleagues Tuesday in advancing President Barack Obama's trade agenda.

The Senate voted 60-37 Tuesday to begin full-blown debate on Obama's request for "fast track" legislation. If approved, it will give the president authority to negotiate trade deals and would limit Congress' ability to amend them. The end goal is a massive deal, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to promote commerce with 11 Pacific Rim counties.

Unions and most Democrats are opposed to the trade deal, which they say sidesteps local protections for American workers. Bennet, though, lent his support to the fast-track bill after Republican leaders promised Democrats that legislation renewing a U.S. worker support program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) would come up for a vote soon.

"The TAA program has served as a lifeline for thousands of Coloradans and has helped them transition into new jobs," Bennet said in a statement following Tuesday's vote.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has been more full-throated in his support for the president's trade agenda.

“Free trade deals enhance America’s standing in the world, building stronger alliances with our friends and putting economic pressure on our rivals," Gardner said in a statement. "Now, it’s the administration’s responsibility to negotiate a good deal and bring it before Congress and the American people for a full public vetting and a vote.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.